Confronted by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace this weekend about a number of misleading statements on Hillary Clinton and the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) offered a flimsy defense that gained even more “Pinocchios” from Washington Post Fact Checker Glen Kessler.
As chair of the House Oversight Committee, Issa has been spearheading an expensive, nine-month investigation into what many Republicans believe is an administration “cover-up” of the attack that led to the death of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Wallace played a clip of a speech Issa delivered in February again touting his “suspicions” that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Defense Department to “stand down” with support aircraft on the night of the attack.
“But the Washington Post Fact Checker cited that bipartisan report you mentioned, the Senate Intelligence Committee, that there were no stand-down orders, and there is also no evidence that Clinton ever spoke to Leon Panetta, then defense secretary, that night,” Wallace said. “And for the second time, they gave you four Pinocchios, which is their highest level of falsehood. How do you respond to that, sir?”
“Well, first of all, the first one was for quoting something that was in somebody else’s report, believing that it was true, which is an unusual way to get four Pinocchios,” Issa responded. “But in this case, the secretary of state was responsible for this normalization policy that existed in Benghazi. Witnesses have told us that they asked for help. The president himself implied that he told Leon Panetta, then secretary of defense, to use what efforts they could and what we know for a fact is not one aircraft, not one rescue of DOD was launched to get there in that 8 1/2 hours.”
Wallace was not satisfied with that answer.
“But to be honest, do you not have any evidence that Secretary Clinton told Leon Panetta to stand down?” he asked.
“Well, the use in answering questions in a political fundraiser,” Issa responded, “that was in response to a question, the term ‘stand down’ is not used in some sort of an explicit way, but rather the failure to react, the fact that only State Department assets and only assets inside the country were ever used, that members of the armed forces, gun carrying, trained people were not allowed to get on the aircraft to go and attempt to rescue. Those kinds of things through State Department resources represent a stand-down. Not maybe on the technical terms of ‘stand down, soldier,’ but on what the American people believe is a failure to respond what they could have.”
An incredulous Kessler noted that the report referred to by Issa as “somebody else’s” was in fact authored in part by the chairman, and that the Republican conveniently redefined his meaning of the words “stand down.”